During my time working as an academic coach at Northwest College Support, it has been my job to teach students the skills needed to navigate post-secondary education and pursue their educational goals. While my students have been the direct recipients of knowledge in our interactions, I have come to realize that I may have actually learned the most.

  1. Students are so much more than a list of diagnoses.

Often, the first details we hear about an incoming student relate to their educational and psychiatric history. These are all very important for teams to prepare adequate support in anticipation of a student’s arrival, but the most valuable information almost never comes from a stack of paperwork and prior psychological testing. I have found that, after establishing a relationship of trust and reciprocal adult-to-adult communication with a student, they can identify their struggles, strengths, dreams and fears better than any outside source. Keeping an open line of communication with the student and the student’s team is key to guiding them in the right direction in pursuit of these goals. This more intentional insight into my students’ lives has also given me a greater sense of human understanding outside of work.

  1. Every interaction really is a teachable moment.

This handy little phrase may seem familiar, as it is one of the six core beliefs of Northwest College Support, but it has also been a key insight for me as of recent. At first glance, this seems obvious, but after years of working as an academic coach I find that I have become more and more aware of just how much can be packed into every seemingly-unimportant interaction with a student. As coaches, we have the opportunity to model appropriate communication, interactive problem-solving, and many other necessary skills that young adults often struggle with. I bring this realization into my daily life as a reminder to find the deeper meaning and opportunity within each moment, and be mindful in my day-to-day interactions.

  1. Not all progress is linear.

This bit of wisdom was repeated to me by supervisors a lot in my first few months working as an academic coach. The hardest days in the field often came when a student, who previously may have been progressing very well, was met with a challenge that caused a minor (or even major) set-back. It can be incredibly hard to watch students seemingly ‘regress’ after periods of continuous success, but this is in no way an abnormal (or even negative) phenomenon. Just as with any pursuit of any individual, progress is rarely an upwards function. It is normal to experience bumps and detours on the route to mastery, and a student’s academic path is no exception. Accepting the revelation that progress is not always linear has given me a sense of freedom in my own pursuits of new and challenging endeavors.

I am very grateful for my time at Northwest College Support, and the valuable life lessons that my students have taught me. These are just a few of many!

by: Miranda Houchens